PMS or Overtraining?

Good morning my  friends! I sit here sipping guzzling down my fourth cup of coffee.It’s just one of those mornings.

This morning, I am continuing with my weekly series called Training Talk Tuesdays’. For those of you who are new readers, each Tuesday, the running coach in me comes out and I write about training for a race of various distances. Hope you join in the fun each week and be sure to email me with any specific questions you may have that you want me to cover in this series. Contact me.

(Disclaimer: Although, I am a RRCA Certified Running Coach, the information, I post may not be right for you. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine).

When I first started running, I had a track coach guiding me and directing me as to how much and how hard to run.

I also had a team to train with and we all wanted to RACE.  I was very interested in racing from the start.  It seemed like an easy way to keep focused on goals and use them to measure  how I can grow over the years.

After I graduated, I took a few years off from racing and instead got involved in other activities, group fitness classes, surfing and lots of outdoor activities.

But when I reentered into the race scene, I was operating under one theory: the more I run, the better I will be.  I understood that I needed rest days, but I really always thought that more mileage was better. So that’s what I did, I ran high mileage weeks (what was considered to be high for me 60- 65 mile weeks).

It didn’t hurt that at the time I was living in California where the weather was perfect for year round outdoor runs. Between balancing work,  graduate school and running a non profit organization, running seemed like the most efficient exercise.  I could get dressed, run out my front door, and be done with my workout. No driving to the gym.  No fighting with the surf report and dragging my surfboard down to the beach. No waiting for a group fitness class to begin.

I really loved to run, too, so I thought doing any other exercise was kind of silly and pointless.

And then… I started to feel overtrained. No serious injuries but just felt the effects of over training: tired, irritable, restless sleep and changes to my appetite. You can read more about overtraining syndrome here.

I started to question EVERYTHING about my nutrition and training.  Why was I getting so tired and my running buddies were not?   I was eating enough calories from quality foods (under fueling is a big cause of injury).  I wondered if my body just wasn’t designed for running.  I was wearing proper shoes (got fitted at a specialty running store) And I didn’t think I was overtraining.

The trouble was that when I asked myself, “Am I overtraining?”  I was looking at overall weekly mileage.  I was running 60 to 70 miles or so a week while prepping for a marathon and didn’t think that seemed too high.  In fact, it seemed low compared to my friends’ training plans.

The problem wasn’t my total mileage – it was running on back-to-back days for weeks. I would run Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; do long runs on Saturday; and cross train or rest on Sunday.

Once I realized back-to-back runs every week, were the culprit, I stopped doing them… and guess what?  Most of my nagging side effects disappeared.  The moment I slipped up and started to run back-to-back again for a few weeks, my body and mind began to tell me.

A benefit to not doing back-to-back runs was that I was forced to incorporate other forms of exercise into my routine.  And that’s when I really began to fall in love with yoga, fitness classes and long family walks.

Many people can run back-to-back weeks without problems.  Some people can also run 100-mile ultra marathons.  Heh.  I cannot, and that’s okay!  I just needed to figure out what worked for MY body, not someone else’s. Maybe one day I will be able to run that 50k I have my eye on, but not now in my current season of life. I’m trying to juggle too much and my body feels the effects.

The other day, someone asked me to list my top running rules.  My personal rules are:

1) Always have fun!

2) Never be ashamed or afraid to walk. You are still a runner.

3) Try to avoid running back-to-back days for weeks.

4) Enjoy cross training – you need it! It provides a mental and physical break from running.

I hope these four rules allow me to run for many, many years.

What are your personal running ‘rules’?  Can you run back-to-back days? 


  1. says

    I don’t run, I figure skate, but overtraining can be a big issue for skating, too. It’s hard because skating is so detail-oriented and you have to train the same moves over and over to improve. I always take a rest day each week, that’s a day with no exercise at all. And I don’t jump every day that I skate, some days I just do footwork.

  2. says

    I try to avoid running back to back days. I have never run that many miles in one week (my max is probably around 30!) but I always feel off if I run 2 days in a row. I’ll take a long walk, yoga, or do some strength training to stay active on “off” days.

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